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From Desert Storm to Pastor

By Beth Foley

Staff Writer

     Don’t discount the voice of God.

     Relenting, listenng, and then following through have made all the difference for Pastor Eldridge Stewart and his wife, First Lady Kecia Stewart, of Deliverance and Restoration Church of God in Christ.

     Heeding God’s calling on his life brought him to a place he had never intended to be, the pastor of a small multiracial congregation of around 30 members and the superintendent of a group of four churches in Edna, Louise, Victoria, and New Braunfels.

     But as challenging as it may have been at first, stepping out in faith to God’s voice has transformed him from Desert Storm combat veteran and prison guard to a man with a heart to help others and spread the gospel.

     “God really just dealt with my heart to just love the people,” Stewart said recently.

     Although his wife had roots in Edna, back then Stewart had little desire to do more than visit occasionally. That changed more than 20 years ago when he was driving from their home in Hockley to his job in Houston. Three days in a row, a voice spoke to him as he neared Cypress, telling him to move to Edna.

     “I knew about God but I didn’t have a relationship with God,” Stewart said, explaining that the first two days he bargained with the voice but didn’t give in. “I didn’t know very much scripture, but I did know the story of Jonah in the belly of the whale. I got there the third day and He said you’re going to Edna or you’re going into the belly of the whale.”

     That scared him enough to call Kecia when he got to work and ask if she had ever thought of relocating to Edna.

     “She said, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m moving to Edna,’” he said. “That’s how we ended up here, but I still was not thinking we were going into the ministry.” The Stewarts moved to town and began to care for Kecia’s mother, who was terminally ill with cancer, and her grandmother, who had raised Kecia for much of her life and had taken her to church as a child. They began to attend that church, then called Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, and that’s where God provided Stewart with his mission. The church was renamed Deliverance and Restoration COGIC in 2003.

     “All my life, I’d felt a calling on my life but I didn’t want to do it,” Stewart said. “I decided one day that I was going to test God, and before we got to the church that Sunday in 1999, I told the Lord, if that’s what you want me to do, then you have the preacher tell me today.

     “I got there that Sunday morning and (the pastor) told me, the Lord told me to tell you He’s calling you. I had to, from that point on. That’s how I started in the ministry.”

     Even then he was reluctant, having grown in and around Houston, and having hardened his views from his years in the Army and working in prisons.

     “For the first 17 years, I still didn’t want to do it,” he said. “I did not want to be in the ministry. For the last three years I have really learned to love the people of God and just love people, period.”

     The transition from the fourth largest city in the U.S. to one of a few thousand people was easier on his wife.

     “My grandmother had raised me in this church, in this neighborhood, so I was okay,” she said, noting that they already had moved from Houston to smaller satellite communities. “I guess God was kind of preparing us, unbeknownst to us. We didn’t know that He was preparing us for the transition.”

     Once they were in Edna, He provided the opportunity for Kecia’s grandmother to pass along her wisdom and knowledge through conversations.

     “She was imparting her knowledge and her wisdom into him, so he got it all,” Kecia said. “We’re fortunate that he had. The way that church was when I grew up has drastically changed.”

     These days, they said, across the country too many churches and people claiming to be associated with God seem to do things to draw attention to themselves, for their personal benefit rather than to adhere to the Great Commission of spreading the gospel and loving others.

     “That’s our mission, to fulfill the Great Commission,” Stewart said. “Because you need help, you should not be made to feel bad that someone’s helping you because they’re putting it on social media. We want the community to know that we’re here but at the same time, I don’t want to demean anybody by doing it that way.

     The church has provided food, clothing, free haircuts, and assistance to those in need, with no strings attached.

     “That’s how we want to do, that’s what we want to base the ministry on, love for one another,” Stewart said. “You know, the disciples asked Jesus, how are they going to know we’re your disciples? Jesus didn’t tell them by the T-shirt you wear or the car you drive.

     “It’s by the way you love one another. That’s what we want to do is personify the love of Christ.”

     The Stewarts are the adoptive parents of four girls, Te’Khilah, Te’Kyrah, Unique, and Te’Khiyah, along with Stewart’s grown son, Elderidge.

     Deliverance and Restoration Church of God in Christ is located at 607 Carver Street in Edna. Sunday school begins at 9:30 a.m. and Sunday worship begins at 10:30 a.m. The church website is drcogic.com and the church phone number is 361-655-9000.

Jackson County Herald Tribune

306 N. Wells
Edna, TX 77957